My sister, Nancy, and I grew up with our own individual dreams. Mine led me to Hollywood to pursue my dreams in film and television. Nancy’s kept her in our hometown of Boston, where she set out on her entrepreneurial journey. But when Nancy moved to Los Angeles, it changed the course of both of our lives.
Days after graduating from Boston University, I bought a car and drove across country to try to make it in Hollywood. I quickly rose up the ranks in the film industry, becoming the first woman in the history of Hollywood to hold the position of Vice President of Post Production and Visual Effects. My all consuming career included overseeing the teams that made Harry Potter fly in the first three films of the franchise and that helped Neo dodge bullets in “The Matrix.”
It was a dream job working with the biggest names in the industry from Tim Burton to Nora Ephron, taking the occasional private jet jaunt to a screening and enjoying London and Sydney on Warner Bros. dime. At the age of 27, I was in a power position at the biggest movie studio in the world. It was exhilarating.
And while it might sound glamorous, and I don’t take any of the perks for granted, it was also stressful and all consuming. I was often the only woman in the room at a meeting and it added a level of pressure to be beyond reproach. Working nearly 80 hours a week and traveling constantly, I had zero balance and wasn’t taking care of myself.
At the same time, Nancy was running her own highly-successful graphic design company in Boston and running her own theater company. She was satisfied in her day job and loved the creative outlet of putting on a show every night. And she loved being her own boss. But, when she and her husband moved to Los Angeles, she knew that it would be best to get a full-time job to cover the cost of their major life transition. She soon signed on to do Academy Award ads for Miramax. It was the height of the now infamous Weinstein company’s success and the hours were killer. And as much as she loved her co-workers, Nancy longed for the days of being independent.
And then it happened. A major restructuring at Warner Bros. landed me in a situation that was no longer a good fit. I knew I had to leave the company that had been my home for 10 years and that I thought I would be at forever.
At the same time, Nancy was ready to strike out on her own again. So when a mutual friend asked us to help her launch a cable network she was creating, we grabbed hands Thelma-and-Louise-style and drove straight off the cliff.
Climbing back up that cliff was more than challenging. The TV channel never came to fruition. The consulting company we launched with another friend ended in our biggest client going bankrupt and stiffing us out of tens of thousands of dollars. And the retro website we helped launch and wrote a majority of the content for, folded within two years.
At that moment we made the decision, we had to do what we loved. But what we loved was watching television, going to movies and eating good food. How could we make a living doing that?
We reached out to an acquaintance at the Television Academy. They’re the people who give out the Emmys every year. She was looking for a team to shoot red carpet interviews at an event a few days later. We were honest with her and admitted that we didn’t know how to do a red carpet interview, let alone how to shoot the video and record the sound. She gave us a shot anyway.
We must have done okay because the day after the event, she asked us to edit the clips. Full confession time again — we didn’t know how to edit. “You’ll figure it out,” she told us. Thanks go Google, we did.
Within a year, her boss was having us do research and conduct three hour long archival interviews with some of the biggest names in television like Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Danny DeVito. We had followed our passion and figured out a way to make money at the same time.
A few years later, the #MeToo movement exploded and we started to feel like we needed to do something with a little more purpose. So we put our heads together and came up with an idea that would use our interview skills to tell the positive stories of empowered women who were following their passions, just like us, to inspire other women to do the same. And with that, The Passionistas Project was born.
We had set out to support the women we were spotlighting and change the paths of our listeners. But The Passionistas Project transformed our lives as well. We now have an incredible group of women surrounding us and cheering us on, something we never dreamed of when we left the man’s world behind and took that giant leap away from Hollywood.
Sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington have been inspired by the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp campaign and decided to use their skills as celebrity interviewers to work to tell a different kind of story. Where many podcasters reserve their airtime for the elite, Amy and Nancy are talking to amazing women you probably haven’t heard of, who are making a huge difference by following their passions. From the founder of a successful ice cream company to a volcano scientist running for office to an artist who makes sculptures using melted down nuclear weapons, Amy and Nancy shine a light on the positive stories of women on The Passionistas Project Podcast.